Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Copper Green

Copper green (verdigris) was a favourite background colour in Mughal paintings. It was perfect for setting off the warm colours in figures and flowers. I've read that this particular turquoise-like green was made from oxidised copper. This seems correct as the colour resembles that of oxidised copper roofs. Unfortunately the pigment is destructive to paper over time, especially if the painting is stored in a humid environment. There are probably modern equivalents of this pigment that are not corrosive but I have never seen them in art supply shops, at least not in the form of gouache or watercolour paints. I have a tube of oil paint which is similar in colour. I would be very grateful if any readers have discovered a paint manufacturer of this colour suitable for miniature painting on paper. I think verdigris is no longer made by paint makers, because of its instability and toxicity but I would be interested to know which modern equivalent is closest in appearance to verdigris.
The name verdigris comes from French Vert de Grece (green of Greece).

Image source: Victoria & Albert Museum

This colour (Cobalt Turquoise) is the closest I can find in the Winsor and Newton Designer Gouache range:
As you can see, it's not really the same. Maybe adding yellow and white might produce something closer.

Update: I've been doing a bit of research.
According to Dick Blick Art Supplies, Phthalo Green (polychlorinated copper(II) phthalocyanine) is the pigment which most closely resembles the discontinued and toxic Verdigris. Here's a link to their information: green gouache
In the W&N range this pigment is called Winsor Green. supply a copper green made from naturally occurring malachite, a mineral formed from copper carbonate hydroxide. It's supposedly quite permanent - apparently it was used in Egyptian wall paintings and is still brilliant after thousands of years.
More information about natural malachite pigments: natural pigments.
Powdered malachite is hazardous if inhaled or ingested, in a paint form it should be safe as long as you don't have a habit of licking your brush, and wash thoroughly if the paint contacts the skin.
Apparently the finer ground pigments are lighter in shade, which is possibly what was used in the best quality Indian and Persian miniatures.

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